Dr. Haider Shah

Opinion is the medium between knowledge and ignorance (Plato).

Emerging from chaos the Serbian way — II —Over a Coffee

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Over a coffee:  The Daily Times      3 June, 2011

Emerging from chaos the Serbian way — II —Dr Haider Shah

Jihadi terrorism was a marriage of convenience in the 1980s between the US and Pakistan. But we need to realise that much water has flowed under the bridge since then and the whole world has reoriented itself. It is keenly waiting for us to follow suit

In part I of this article, I had stated that nations much stronger than us reoriented their national paradigms once it became obvious to them that their survival necessitated a fundamental change. The most recent example of this change can be found in the case of Serbia, which has handed over Ratko Mladic who was once regarded as a war hero by a nation that had remained gripped with war hysteria in the past. Perhaps the time has come for Pakistan too to do the same, as the security paradigm that was developed at the early stages of Pakistan has not only become irrelevant today but also self-destructive.

As Pakistan and India became independent in August 1947, both believed that size matters and land grabbing frenzy was, therefore, a natural consequence. Both countries inherited bad blood from the communal hatred-fanned politics of the 1940s. While both India and Pakistan have suffered from mutual animosity, Pakistan has mortgaged its future to finance its hostilities towards a much bigger neighbour.

In November 2009, President Obama visited Beijing to forge better economic ties with the future giant — China. Just a few months later, Prime Minister David Cameron visited another rising economic giant of the region — India — with a similar economic agenda. East is East and West is West and in the globalised world the twain are forced to meet. While the heads of governments of the strongest nations are exploring the possibilities of economic enrichment in this part of Asia, Pakistan is singularly unlucky, having shut its doors on this golden opportunity. The new world is characterised by the emergence of regional trade blocs where smaller countries benefit from the economic progress of their bigger neighbours. With two big booming economies next door, Pakistan has no excuse not to benefit from its proximity to this new epicentre of economic activity.

Some writers of economics and organisational theory use a phrase ‘path dependence’ to explain why many organisations tend to keep on doing things which they have been doing in the past. All organisations suffer from the tyranny of the status quo as they become victims of ‘bounded rationality’. Many sensible private sector organisations employ the services of external consultants who help them identify the problems and suggest suitable remedies. The security organisations of Pakistan are also a victim of the ‘path dependence’ syndrome. The remedy to the situation does not lie in treating incidents as a security lapse. Recent events have exposed the need for a complete rethinking of all national policies on the interlinked issues of trade and security.

Sometime back Nawaz Sharif had suggested the need for a new national consensus through a joint sitting of politicians and the military establishment. In principle, the proposal defies the spirit of parliamentary democracy, as it is the job of elected government to frame any public policy, which is then binding on all government officials, including military officers. But, given the ground realities, I also fully endorse the idea of a new social contract, provided the correct sequence is followed for the achievement of the same. First all public opinion bodies such as political parties and media should encourage a national debate on this issue so that a consensus in the spirit of the Serbian example can be developed. Once the consensus is achieved at the political level, there is no harm in sitting with the members of the military establishment and educating them on the need for a new paradigm.

In the new outlook, Pakistan needs to do away with its India-fixated security paradigm. Having outlived its utility, the old paradigm is out of sync with the realities of the present-day world. India should be seen not as an eternal enemy but rather as a world of opportunity that can propel Pakistan’s future economy. All think tanks around the world can clearly see that; unfortunately, we have kept ourselves blindfolded to this reality. It is high time SAARC became an effective regional economic bloc. The European nations that have little in common in terms of language and culture and which devastated each other for many centuries in the past have shunned their enmities and developed a single market. Pakistan and India share a common history, literature and music. What stops them from embracing each other? Pakistan should redesign its new paradigm on the basis of this strategic objective and for that it needs to rationalise regional ambitions so that it can reap maximum economic dividends by forging very close friendly ties with India.

The ‘Pakistan’ brand at the moment is not positioned well in the international market, as it is perceived to be closely associated with murky secrecy, double games and jihadi aspirations. Pakistan is perceived to be like Somalian pirates. The only difference is that they use ships and crew for demanding money while we use terrorist outfits and their leaders for the same purpose. For a friendly image, Pakistan has to fully dispel this kind of negative perception. If Pakistan integrates well in a respectable manner with its neighbours and the international community, its nuclear assets will also attract less suspicion and concerns. Jihadi terrorism was a marriage of convenience in the 1980s between the US and Pakistan. But we need to realise that much water has flowed under the bridge since then and the whole world has reoriented itself. It is keenly waiting for us to follow suit.

The gory death of young Saleem Shahzad has come as a shock to all those who believe that the time has come for Pakistan to follow the Serbian example and start its journey afresh. Victor Hugo once remarked: “You can resist an invading army; you cannot resist an idea whose time has come.” One hopes that the new discourse of change continues blossoming despite all setbacks.


Author: Dr. Haider Shah

Academic, Researcher and Writer

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